As many Amazon workers called out sick for a May Day Strike, Tim Bray was spending his final day at the company. The VP and Distinguished Engineer at Amazon Web Services announced today that May 1 was his final day with the retail giant, citing Amazon’s firings of vocally critical employees.
Likely most notable for being a co-author of XML, Bray spent more than five years with the company, following stints with Google and Sun. In his post, he calls Amazon, “the best job I’ve ever had,” before noting a breaking point over the firings of organizers Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa.
While Costa and Cunningham have stated that the firings were directly linked to their opening criticisms of Amazon’s environmental record and treatment of employees during the COVID-19 crisis, the company has, naturally, denied the connection, stating: “We terminated these employees for repeatedly violating internal policies.”
For his part, Bray says he attempted to voice his concern through official channels before ultimately resigning.
“That done, remaining an Amazon VP would have meant, in effect, signing off on actions I despised,” Bray explains. “So I resigned. The victims weren’t abstract entities but real people; here are some of their names: Courtney Bowden, Gerald Bryson, Maren Costa, Emily Cunningham, Bashir Mohammed, and Chris Smalls. I’m sure it’s a coincidence that every one of them is a person of color, a woman, or both. Right?”
Bray’s post is an indictment of an unfair power structure in a company at which he served as an executive. The piece primarily focuses on treatment at Amazon warehouses across the world, both in terms of its COVID-19 response and broader complaints about the late-stage capitalism for which the company has certainly played a role. He contrasts the treatment with his own former division, AWS, stating, “Amazon Web Services (the “Cloud Computing” arm of the company), where I worked, is a different story. It treats its workers humanely, strives for work/life balance, struggles to move the diversity needle (and mostly fails, but so does everyone else), and is by and large an ethical organization. I genuinely admire its leadership. Of course, its workers have power. The average pay is very high, and anyone who’s unhappy can walk across the street and get another job paying the same or better.”